Buying Online Survey Software –
5 Key Things to Consider (and some questions to ask the provider!)

By Julia Warren-Nichols


1: Where is the actual data hosted?

Is your data hosted locally, or off-shore? And why is this important?

Data stored in an offshore cloud environment may move across multiple foreign jurisdictions, each with its own set of rules. For example, data stored in the U.S. is subject to U.S. law, regardless of whether the data user or the data subject is based in Australia, or elsewhere. Private data stored in the U.S. is also at a significantly higher risk of being accessed by government agencies than data stored in Australia. In the U.S., formal requests by government entities in the form of subpoenas and warrants generally compel the provision of data and information.  The bottom line is that a growing number of Government and corporate organisations are insisting on local data hosting to gain more control over how any potentially sensitive staff or customer data they collect is stored and accessed.

2: What level of support will you have access to?

Customer support really does matter when it comes to surveys. As such, it is really key that you consider the level and type of support that is being provided when looking at survey providers. Are you being offered assistance with the actual survey design, or are you left to your own devices? Questionnaire design shouldn’t be taken lightly. Phrasing, appropriate question types to use, questionnaire flow, and the use of space/design and clear language are all important components to a successful online survey program, so it’s important to have access to expert advice in these areas. It is also a good idea at the start of the project to take into consideration your ultimate reporting requirements and key research objectives. Ultimately, designing an effective survey takes specialist expertise and knowledge. This advice is important – a well designed survey that is relevant and well executed will ultimately deliver you good quality, actionable information to help you grow your business – and that’s a worthwhile investment.

Other things that you should consider when looking at the type of support on offer are:

  • Advice on when to send your survey out (if applicable).
  • You ability to talk to an actual support person or Project Manager (If not, consider the       speed and quality of responses to any technical questions or queries you may have).
  • Consider what trouble shooting facilities you will have access to.
  • Understand if you need to pay for extra support.

3: What invite & reminder capability is available? (Response rate assistance)

Why is this important? If you don’t send out the survey with clear instructions on how to complete and information on how the survey results are going to be reviewed and actioned this can negatively impact the responses (or lack thereof) that you receive. As such an invite and separate reminder (sent only to those people that haven’t yet started the survey) is something that your vendor should be able to provide.Besides the actual wording of the invite there are other things that need to be considered at invite time. Below are a few things for you to look out for:

  • Will you be given proactive advice on how you could potentially improve your response/survey completion rates (if necessary).
  • Are you able to personalise the invite/reminders? (ie Dear ‘John’, In relation to your purchase of ‘xyz’ on the 24th May …).
  • Are you able to customise and tailor your email ‘from name’ and ‘email’ address?
  • Are you able to send out automatic reminders to boost your response rates?
  • Do you have the capability to co-brand invites with a provider if required?
  • Can you send a personalised ‘Thank You’ email message or offer, send only to completed respondents?

4: The survey software’s online reporting capability.How you analyse and report on the data you collect is key! So should be the way in which you share this information! There is little point collecting data if you can’t easily access it and turn it into actionable insight.

Questions to ask / things to consider when it comes to survey reporting:

  • Will you have access to an online suite of reports?
  • Is the data in your reports shown and updated in real time or is it a static snapshot in time?
  • What is the pricing model? Ie. Do you need to pay per report or do you have the flexibility of running unlimited reports yourself?
  • Are you able to access comparative online reports? (eg. compare State Vs State, or males Vs females).
  • Are you able to easily share the online reports without giving away your user name and password? If so, how? Are you able to email reports? Can you lock or secure specific sensitive sections of the report?
  • What type of reports will you have available and in what format? Ie. Do you just have access to the raw data via an Excel Spreadsheet or do you have access to drill down into the detail via an online interactive reporting console?
  • Can you produce charts and graphs and export them as images for presentations?
  • Can you easily compare trends over time?

5: Are you able to pre-load demographical data at the point of invite?

This quite simply means at point of invite you can ‘pre-load’ directly into your reports known demographical details other than the email address you are sending the survey to. For example, you can preload the Person’s name, Division, Department, Product Brought, Location/Site/Store, Manager, Age group, Tenure, Gender etc.Why is this of benefit to you?

  • It can make your survey shorter which can improve your survey response/completion rate.
  • It looks more professional as it means you don’t have to ask these questions in the body of the survey (i.e. ask the person filling out the survey to confirm if they are male/female, or from ‘X Department’).
  • It opens up your reporting capabilities, i.e. it enables you to drill down and analyse your results by sorting by these known demographics when reporting.

While there is plenty more to consider, the thoughts above will hopefully help put you on the right path to making a sound decision the next time you require an online survey solution.

I’d love to hear from you.

Give me a call to discuss the plans for your next survey initiative on the details below.Julia Warren-Nicholls, Client Relationship Manager.  Ph +61 2 9232 0172.

Why not have a look at PeoplePulse today? If you are interested in a demonstration of full featured online survey software offered by a full service provider, please request a demo.


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Selecting Your Service Provider – Decision Time
Survey Response Rates – Tips On How To Increase Response Rates